The Senate Republican caucus unveiled its 2014 legislative agenda Thursday with an emphasis on continuing Oklahoma’s economic momentum. The agenda focuses on jobs and the economy, education, health and human services, public safety, veterans, transportation and government reform.
“We’ve made tremendous strides in recent years to grow Oklahoma’s economy, creating jobs and investment in our state,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman. “We must continue this momentum as we enter the legislative session—this agenda helps us keep the focus on making Oklahoma the best place to live and work in the nation.”
In jobs and the economy, Senate Republicans will pass legislation that ensures Oklahoma remains a leader in the production and harvesting of the state’s abundant natural resources. Additionally, the caucus will work to limit federal regulatory intrusion in Oklahoma and protect pro-growth policies passed in recent years—like workers’ compensation and lawsuit reforms—to ensure continued economic growth.
“While we face a challenging budget year this year, our state collections continue to increase and we are optimistic about our state’s economic future, both in the near and long term,” said Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and the Senate Appropriations Chairman. “But that momentum is contingent on the Legislature and governor continuing to support pro-growth policies that put our state in a prime economic position to compete for and retain jobs. This session, our caucus is dedicated to keeping the focus on growing our state’s economy.”
In education, it will be important in 2014 to protect and fund existing education reforms in order to improve student achievement and accountability through high standards and expectations. Workforce development continues to be a problem in the state, and Senate Republicans will work to pass legislation to increase the number of students obtaining critical post-secondary degrees and industry certifications.
Finally, the caucus will work to empower parents, educators and communities as they help every Oklahoma student achieve his or her potential.
“For too long, our state’s education system has not kept pace with the changing times, hurting our students’ ability to compete for jobs in the 21st Century economy. In recent years, we have passed bold reforms that have increased standards and expectations to ensure every student—regardless of socio-economic or regional factors—can reach his or her true potential,” said Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, and Senate Education chairman. “We owe it to our children, their parents and all Oklahoma citizens to continue to press for higher standards and accountability and expect more.”
An important issue this session will also be reforming Oklahoma’s pension system so it keeps the promises made to those currently working for the state, but also reflects the needs of the next generation of employees.
“Oklahoma currently has an $11 billion unfunded liability when it comes to our pension funds, which is the one issue that keeps our state from having a AAA credit rating and puts the promise we’ve made to our workers at risk. We will not let that happen,” said Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, and chairman of the Senate Pensions Committee. “This is a pressing problem that we must address to ensure we keep the promises made to current workers, allows us to meet the needs of the next generation of state employees and protects our grandchildren from being strapped with an even greater unfunded liability because we didn’t do our jobs.”
Judicial reform will also be on the agenda in 2014 as the caucus seeks to finalize responsible reforms that restore fairness and balance to Oklahoma’s judiciary.
“Our founding fathers saw the wisdom in three separate, but equal branches of government and it is critical that we have safeguards against the erosion of those principles,” said Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The Senate has passed several sensible measures that return the people’s voice to the third branch of government.”